The Best Gadgets Of 2012 (So Far)

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We’re at the halfway point of 2012, with a whole slew of new devices coming out in the first six months of the year.

Not surprisingly, Apple is still at the top of its game with the new iPad and a huge update to the iPhone’s software in the pipeline.

But what about the rest of the pack?

And what gadgets should you be carrying around with you right now?

We’ve assembled a list of our favourite gadgets of the year — so far. This is obviously subject to change as new products come out.

This also isn’t a definitive list. If there’s a kind of gadget missing, let us know in the comments below!

BEST SMARTPHONE: The iPhone 4S.

Price: $200

Sorry, haters, but we cannot, in good conscience, recommend a smartphone other than the iPhone 4S.

The iPhone has a huge network of app developers and more than 600,000 apps on the App Store. The best apps will typically hit the App Store before every other smartphone.

It's also one of the best-designed phones on the market, with a gorgeous display and a some of the best hardware on the market.

Apple also has a huge update to its iPhone software coming out later this year, which will add a bunch of new features -- and a brand new mapping application (though we're a little worried about this one).

So far, the only phone that has come remotely close to it is the Galaxy S III -- which isn't even out yet.

SMARTPHONE RUNNER UP: The Galaxy S III.

Price: $200

If you absolutely cannot stand the iPhone (or you've had it for so long that you're sick of it), then the Galaxy S III is the next-best thing on the market.

It's packed with some of the best hardware on the market and has a screen that can compete with the iPhone's high-resolution display.

It also has one big advantage on the iPhone: a much bigger screen. Android also runs about as smoothly as the iPhone operating system on the Galaxy S III. These phones are also on a much faster mobile broadband network.

But it is still hard to argue with the impeccable design of the iPhone 4S. Even the last generation iPhone, the iPhone 4, is still one of the best phones on the market thanks to its design.

But most developers opt for the Apple App Store, so you will likely have to wait for the best applications (like Instagram) to appear on Android.

BEST 10-INCH TABLET: iPad with Retina display.

Price: $500

You'd be surprised how much of a difference a high-resolution screen makes when it comes to a tablet.

You're typically holding the device very close to your face, so it's easier to see the effects of a crisp display compared to a computer. It makes just about everything -- including web pages and apps, as long as they are specified for that resolution -- look absolutely stunning.

On top of that, the iPad still sports top-of-the-line specifications, and beats a lot of the competition on a price-per-quality basis. The iPad starts at $500, while a similar competitor like the Asus Transformer sells for $500 with a much lower-quality screen.

It's disappointing that a competitor has yet to come close to the iPad, but there's plenty in the pipeline from both Google and Microsoft.

10-INCH TABLET RUNNER-UP: iPad 2.

Price: $400

Again, disappointing from the competition that the iPad 2 is still one of the best tablets on the market, even though it's a year old.

But you can attribute that to Tim Cook's magic supply chain, which is literally years ahead of other manufacturers. So much so that Apple can afford to drop the price of the iPad 2 by $100.

When it comes to hardware specifications, the iPad 2 is still a beast with a 1024 by 768 pixel resolution that tops a lot of the existing competition and a 10-hour battery on wi-fi.

That makes it not only one of the cheapest 10-inch tablets on the market, but one of the best as well. You won't get more bang for your buck than the iPad 2, and you'll have access to the hundreds of thousands of apps on the Apple App Store.

BEST 7-INCH TABLET: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.

Price: $250

Sometimes 10 inches is just too much to handle.

For those that want a tablet that feels a little better in the hands, The Galaxy Tab 2 is the one to buy. It's Samsung's first tablet that carries the newest version of the Android operating system.

It also comes with an app called Peel, a favourite at Business Insider that makes it easy to control your home entertainment system.

The display won't stun you like the Galaxy S3, but it still packs a punch when it comes to hardware.

The 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 is the best value at that size, and only costs $250.

7-INCH TABLET RUNNER-UP: Kindle Fire.

Price: $199

Amazon's first swing at the tablet market is still the second-best because it is ridiculously cheap.

The 7-inch tablet costs $199 and comes packed with Amazon's own Android-powered app store that's about as good as Google's app store.

You'll feel the price of the device, though -- it won't scream like the new iPad and the display is nowhere near as good as some of the best tablets on the market.

Still, the Kindle Fire is about as good as it gets for a cheap 7-inch tablet.

BEST E-READER: Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch.

Price: $139

It's pretty hard to create a bad e-reader, but Barnes & Noble and Amazon have decided to duke it out over the e-reader market.

Surprisingly, Barnes & Noble has the best e-reader with the Nook Simple Touch -- a back-lit e-reader.

It's a touch-controlled e-reader like the Kindle Touch, but you have the option of turning on a backlight for low-light situations.

We're surprised at how important this is when it comes to e-readers. It's a small feature that distinguishes it from the rest of the e-readers on the market and decidedly makes the Nook Simple Touch the best e-reader on the market.

E-READER RUNNER-UP: Kindle Touch.

Price: $99

There's always a second place, even when it comes to the small e-reader market.

That's where Amazon lands with the Kindle Touch e-reader, a touch-powered and advertising-supported e-reader.

You can get the Kindle Touch much cheaper than other e-readers by getting an advertising-supported version, which brings the price under $100.

Other than that, it's pretty much what you'd expect from an e-reader.

BEST PORTABLE GAME CONSOLE: PlayStation Vita.

Price: $300

If you can't stand playing games on your smartphone and want something a little more, the PlayStation Vita is worth picking up.

The diversity of the game titles is staggering. It can play games from the previous generation handheld console, from the PlayStation, and also has access to a ton of popular apps. You can play triple-A level games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss or casual puzzle games like Lumines.

You won't see as diverse a line-up of games on the Apple App Store.

The device also has tons of ways to control its games, such as a touchscreen and a touchpad on the back of the device. It also has a pair of analogue sticks and a whole set of buttons -- making it much easier to control games.

If you have extra room in your bag or pocket, bring a PlayStation Vita with you.

PORTABLE GAME CONSOLE RUNNER-UP: Nintendo 3DS.

Price: $170

If, for some reason, you absolutely have to carry around a 3D-enabled game console, then we'll go ahead and give our blessing to the Nintendo 3DS.

The library of game titles is microscopic compared to the PlayStation Vita, but you'll still have access to a bunch of fun franchises like Super Mario and Kid Icarus.

The games are still fun, but they are fewer in number than the PlayStation Vita.

And you'll have the benefit of a 3D screen without the need of special glasses -- though the novelty might wear off over time.

BEST CONSUMER CAMERA: Panasonic Lumix GF2.

Price: $400

If you want to drop money on a camera, then the Panasonic Lumix GF2 is the camera to go with.

The camera isn't that pricey compared to expensive professional-grade DSLR cameras, but it's a favourite among photographers because it has interchangeable lenses and takes high-quality photos.

It's also small enough to fit in your pocket or take up a small amount of space in your bag.

It's like a much more compact DSLR that's making the traditional point-and-shoot more obsolete.

CONSUMER CAMERA RUNNER-UP: Your cell phone.

Seriously, why are you buying a camera, unless you want incredibly high-resolution images?

If you have to have them and don't want to shell out a ton of money for a professional-grade camera, buy the Lumix GF2.

Otherwise, just stick to your phone. You can already upload those photos directly to Facebook or Twitter from your phone.

BEST LAPTOP: MacBook Air.

Price: $999

At just under $1,000 and with one of the best designs, displays and batteries out there, the value of the MacBook Air is second to none.

Sure, Apple has a MacBook Pro with beastly guts and a resolution that stomps the competition, but this is one of the most affordable high-quality computers on the market.

The Air remains the laptop you should buy -- if you are still in the market for a laptop.

LAPTOP RUNNER UP: MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

Price: $2,199

If you have the money, you should shell out for the MacBook Pro with a Retina display.

This machine is stunning. It has all the power of a MacBook Pro while still retaining the form factor of a MacBook Air -- and it packs the ultra-high resolution of an iPad or an iPhone 4 onto the laptop's giant screen.

There's a downside here: you won't be able to open it up to repair it and upgrade it, and repairs on other parts of the machine will cost a fortune.

But this is still one of the best machines on the market, even with a hefty price tag.

If you have an iPhone already...

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